So, Update 1.3 has been released, and all of us have gotten a chance to experience the new menu for ourselves. Unfortunately, like the title says, we know how much work went into it, but all of us players are less than satisfied with the result. I experienced the update live with my fellow players, and the immediate response I saw from almost everyone, both in chat and in our Kingdoms Discord channels, was “This is worse than before, please roll back the update!” or “How do I get the old menu back?” And I’ve continued to see this sentiment (often even with extremely similar phrasing) in the days since the update has gone live. There somehow managed to be a huge disconnect between the good intentions of the team and the result we got. A fellow player summed it up well by saying that you fixed the things that didn’t need fixing, and broke the things that we liked. The game is unfortunately in an almost unplayable state with the new UI changes. We players would like to provide (hopefully constructive) feedback so these issues can be fixed as soon as possible. With that in mind, here’s my feedback about the update.
This feedback post of mine about the update preview has remained surprisingly applicable to the actual update. My dislikes about the new update are the same as in this post, as well as most of my likes, though I found things to add to each category. However, I’ll offer more detail now that I’ve had hands-on experience with the update.
- Battles tab instead of World tab
- Battles tab being moved to right, where it’s easier and more instinctive to press
- Kingdoms getting their own tab
- OFFERS BEING CLEARED OFF THE MAIN SCREEN
- This is still the best part of the update
- Design of the new follower
- He still looks cool, even if I’m less than happy about his skills
- Addition of archive
- It’s existence is great, and helps add much-needed content to the game. Plus, I like that I can go back and see the parts of the story that I missed.
- Home screen has both hero and kingdom name now
- It turned out to be kingdom name instead of player name, but I still like its addition. (Though I don’t like it at the cost of the smaller exp bar.)
- The progress bars for daily tasks, such as Versus and Events.
- The new quest pass and event progress boxes on the main screen.
- The weird extra spacing that existed near the edges of the screen has been eliminated for iPad at least (it still exists on my android phone unfortunately), causing things to look better and have a bit more room
- Addition of progression bar and icons for each part, like the side quests have (just like I had asked for, yay!)
- The bar seems to be a bit bugged (showing up for some levels and not for others) and isn’t in the archive story mode, but its existence at all is a major plus
So first of all, before I get into everything I’m disappointed about, I think it’s important to cover some of the whys behind the things that I’m disappointed about. Most of the things that don’t work for me can ultimately be traced back to design principles that the new UI has broken. Design principles were made with human psychology in mind, so when they’re broken, people don’t always know why they dislike something: they just know that they do. When you explore the broken design principle behind whatever is wrong, then it’s easy to see what the issue is, and what to change when making a fix. So with that in mind, I think it’s important to go over what the design principles are first.
What the exact principles are differ depending on who you ask, but all lists follow the same general ideas. I’ll be focusing on the rules from this link, this document, Ben Schnider’s Eight Golden Rules of Design Interface, and Jacob Nielsen’s Jakob Nielsen’s 6th heuristic (aka general principle): (recognition rather than recall), as those rules together cover all of the basics of interface design. Note that the first link is the best simple source on design principles that I’ve found commonly available, so it’s a great place to start. And the second document is quite long, but laid out simply, so it’s an easy and interesting read. I’ll also be referencing this webpage for a more in-depth explanation of Jakob’s 6th heuristic.
While all of these rules are important, they can be distilled down to a couple of specific applications that should (almost) always be followed when designing mobile games. These are as follows:
- Fashion should never trump usability (doc 2)
- It doesn’t matter how pretty something is if it’s unusable. Fashions come and go, but the basic principles of usability change much, much slower, if at all. Interfaces designed with usability in mind first will last longer and cause users to be happier long-term.
- The current trend of minimalism and clean lines falls into this category. When taken too far, it can interfere with usability in the name of fashion (like what has happened in the latest update). Doc 2 talks quite a bit about the “Illusion of Simplicity”, and how simplifying things too far makes them more complicated. It also warns against simplifying by eliminating necessary capabilities. So when designing, it’s important to consider the purpose of the design (if it’s for fashion or usability) and if the design will interfere with functionality in any way. If there’s any doubt, it’s better to not go ahead with it.
- The majority of tappable content should go on the right side, and the majority of purely visual or less used content on the left side. (doc 1)
- This comes from principle 7 of the first document (locate your UI properly). It says, “If taking into account that the majority of mobile games players are right-handed, designers should keep in mind that UI should be adapted considering the clickable areas on the screen. The device may have convenient and hard-to-reach areas.” Things on the left side of the screen are hard to reach for the majority of users, while things on the right side of the screen are easy to reach. If devs have enough resources, ideally players would have an option to flip the interface so that left-handed users could have the same ease of use. But at minimum, UIs need to be easy to use for the majority of players, and that unfortunately means prioritizing right-handed players.
- Controls and other objects necessary for the successful use of software (navigation, etc.) should be visibly accessible at all times (doc 2)
- This is important for usability, and ties in with recognition vs recall. Users shouldn’t have to remember where the most important functions are. Instead, they should be able to look and recognize them. This improves their speed of navigation and ease of use.
- Doc 2 specifically warns against invisible scroll bars. They interfere with users’ ability to maintain their sense of place, which in turn interferes with their ability to navigate and with their attention to the content that the scroll bar belongs to.
- Consistency is key (golden rules)
- Everything should work the same way 100% of the time.
- Font, color, size function, and location should be the same or similar throughout the game. This ties everything together visually and helps users know what to expect and how to find things.
- Consistency with user expectations is more important than anything, even “good” design
- “It doesn’t matter how fine a logical argument you can put together for how something should work. If users expect it to work a different way, you will be facing an uphill and often unwinnable battle to change those expectations.” (doc 2)
- If users have created a way of doing things that they enjoy and that works well for them, it’s better to go with it and incorporate it into the game experience than fighting users to try and get them to do something different. Fighting it is a losing battle that makes both sides unhappy.
- Make things easy to undo (golden rules)
- This gives players freedom to explore without feeling like they’ll mess things up. This in turn helps them navigate better and get full use out of the interfaces.
- Always have a way to go back to the previous screen.
- Aim for no more than 9 important things going on at once (whether it’s things on a screen or things to keep in mind for battle or etc.)
- Humans can only remember 7 plus or minus two things at a time, so 9 is the upper limit of what they can keep in their short-term memory. Closer to 5 is better.
- Always test everything. (all docs)
- Some flaws can only be seen when tested by real players.
- Theory and practice are often different
- Players will always surprise you.
- You can never completely predict human behavior, so real-world testing is the only way to see what sort of crazy things players will do.
- Devs can think they know what players like, only to discover that they were unconsciously biased in some way, resulting in their predictions missing the mark
And now the things I disliked about the game, using these principles to explain why.
All of the important information is removed from screens, leaving just textless icons. It makes it feel like you have to have the icons for everything memorized. I saw multiple players in chat mention this (both them missing the text and the part about memorization).
The reason for this is that the textless icons break Jakob’s 6th heuristic. The icons with text make players only have to recognize, and that process is made easy by the text. On the other hand, textless icons cause the player to have to recall what the icons do. I understand that you were going for simple and streamlined, but, as this design principle proves, all of that text is actually very important for understanding and navigating the game. So please bring it back!
Everything is so small now that you can’t see it. Chests are smaller, gear icons are smaller, buttons are smaller. It’s too hard to read and click on stuff now. Players are squinting and fat fingering their way through menus now, so they’re having a lot harder time navigating. Things were a good size before. Please increase the size again. Also, if you look at the example grid minion menu I posted earlier, all of the icons are twice the size of the gear icons at least, but there are still enough minions that fit on the screen (12) that the grid layout is useful. So there’s no need for things to be so small.
Also, I understand that the devs seem to want a minimalistic look for the UI now, and that’s part of the reason they’re making everything so small, but it still has to be functional. It can look amazing, but if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t matter, so please keep in mind we have to click on everything and use it, not just look at its surroundings!
So many important UI things that actually had issues stayed the same. For example, the Kingdoms UI could use a rework, as I explained in my post here. And the shop could really use a revamp, as all of the daily deals are buried in various tabs and hard to find. The wallet could have been changed. And Quest Pass’s UI could have been improved a lot too. Yet all of that stuff was left alone. This was supposed to be the major UI update where everything UI related was fixed, but so much stuff is untouched.
It’s just so much harder to navigate. Most of the useful shortcuts were taken away (for example, the story shortcut on the main menu). Additional clicks/taps were added to the most used things (clicks for less used things were improved, but that didn’t need improving in the first place). For example, navigating to dungeons takes clicking/tapping on ‘Battles’, scrolling over (which takes at least two clicks/taps), and then clicking/tapping on ‘Battles’, when before it just took two click/taps: ‘World’ and then ‘Battles’. Things were simplified and condensed in the wrong places (places where the additional taps would have been worth it for the ease of use that separating things would have brought) etc. For example, every battle is now crammed onto the ‘Battles’ tab, making it hard to read and requiring scrolling to use, when the prior divisions and side tabs were much nicer and made it easier to find things.
The changes to terminology are negative ones. Most of them made things more confusing, not less. For example, ‘gear score’ is now just called ‘gear’, and I find the lack of ‘score’ makes it harder to know exactly what to call the number for gear, what it means, and how to refer to it. Also, it’s confusing that gear and minions are now called ‘collectables’. A collectable is a unique, one-off item that you collect/try to find each one of, usually for a reward. Gear and minions don’t fit this definition (in fact, nothing in this game currently does), so it’s very confusing to have that term be used for them. There are many confusing terminology changes similar to these ones.
This update wasn’t tested with real players at all. That was a large part of the reason it’s different from what the players actually want. Every site repeats the importance of testing over and over. It’s just something that needs to be done, one way or another. The idea on the forums about playtesting for in-game rewards is a brilliant one, in my opinion. No new people would need to be officially hired, but it would help out the small dev team by allowing them to offload a bit of their work (bug testing and stuff) and allow them to spend their limited time and energy working on the right thing. My Mom always says, “Work smarter, not harder,” and I think that statement applies here.
When you click on any of the bottom tabs, the bottom tab bar goes away, keeping you from using it to navigate to anywhere else. Why even have a bottom nav bar if it’s just going to vanish?
Also, to go back to the main menu, you have to press the x or the back arrow. Except it doesn’t look like that’s what it does because the back arrow in the upper left says something else.
Another unfortunate thing is that anywhere you press the x from, no matter how far away you navigated from it, takes you back to the home screen. And the button is easy to press accidentally, leaving you with 5 clicks/to perform again to get back to where you used to be.
The above three things break multiple principles, such as always giving users what they expect, keeping the navigation elements visible at all times, and making actions easy to undo.
Like I said in my previous post, it’s so empty now. Everything that was there before was useful, and I didn’t find it cluttered. Now there’s no story quick navigation, no event quick navigation, and no spells button. And ‘Friends’ is only reachable from the main menu now. This breaks the principle of not removing important functional elements for style purposes. It looking streamlined is nice, but not at the cost of removing functionality.
Also, as mentioned previously all of the icons are so small: too small to see or use properly.
The gear button is all the way on the left side of the screen and requires reaching across the entire screen to access it. This breaks the principle of having the majority of content on the right side. Also, the gear menu is only reachable from this one place in the game, so it’s a very important button. It should be larger and featured more prominently instead of being squished off to the side.
Its addition in the top menu is nice, but I find it too far to the right in the bar to be easily reachable. It would be better if it was included in front of the level banner, not after.
The chests are really small now. Also, there’s a completely invisible wall cutting some of them off, and an invisible scroll bar for them, causing some of them to be hidden without any indication that you have to scroll to see them. This breaks the rule of controls and navigation being visible at all times.
The orange color on the screen is too bright. It draws the eye so much that it’s hard to look anywhere else. A darker color would work a lot better.
The custom nav is nice, but it creates as many problems as it solves. It keeps ‘Battles’ from being the rightmost tab, where it would work best, and I often feel like it gets in the way as much as it helps. It also doesn’t have enough info. For example, the story stages lack the enemy score, which is important to see if you can actually beat that stage
Now, I know it’s hard sometimes to come up with good solutions to design problems, and I didn’t want to just come up with problems and no solutions, so I created an example home screen so you can see what sort of design I think would be a good one. It’s in this separate post, as I had a lot to say about it.
Previously I had nothing but praise for the inventory menu. I said in my previous post: The existence of the gear set bonus menu is great. It looks nice and provides a lot of helpful information at a glance. The vertical tabs that show each category of gear are very useful. Equipment upgrade materials are dependent on which of the 3 categories a piece of gear is, so it’s nice to see what gear is in which category and compare what you have equipped in that category at a glance. Gear and spells being separate tabs in the same menu makes it easy to switch back and forth between them quickly when making or modifying sets, which is nice. The existence of loadouts and ability to edit the name of them is phenomenally helpful.
There was nothing I would have changed except for the set bonuses menu, and perhaps switching the locations of stats and gear. I found the inventory menu functional, well-designed, and useful. Now, there’s not a single thing I like about it. And I’ve given it an honest try and tried to like it
- The new icons are so small and lacking in information. Both in the gear vault and in the equipment screen.
- So much of the screen is taken up by the hero, which serves no purpose. You can only see equipped weapons, not armor, so unless that functionality is going to be added to the game, it’s better to not have the hero there at all. I can look at my hero on the home screen when I want to. I don’t need to do that from the gear screen.
- I hate looking at all of my gear all the time. I only want to see it when I go to change a piece of equipment. it’s just unnecessary visual clutter the rest of the time.
- I don’t like the new comparison menu that pops up.
- You have to tap on a type of gear to sort by that type of gear, and then it only greys other gear out instead of not showing it.
- Whenever you go to upgrade an item, it automatically goes to upgrade to maximum level, even if it requires evolution materials.
- There are no additional useful filters for gear.
- Salvaging takes so many extra taps. Favoriting things is supposed to be what keeps us from accidentally salvaging things. And that’s the system that most games use, so it’s obviously good enough. We don’t need more taps and confirmation windows to do that.
I truly believe that the best change that could be made to the inventory would be to revert it to the 1.2 inventory. There’s nothing worth keeping from this change in my opinion. It’s harsh, but it’s the unfortunate truth. I’m happy enough with the 1.2 inventory that I’d be fine with it staying like that long-term. But if you decide you still want to change it 1.2 is a much better base to work off of than 1.3.
The changes to this screen were better than the ones to the Inventory screen, but ultimately a downgrade as well. There’s just too much on one screen now (11 boxes). It was easier to navigate when things were separated out with the side tabs. This breaks the rule of having a minimal number of items on each screen.
There are so many boxes it requires scrolling to see them all, which is a big negative. Players can’t see what boxes are off the screen, and all of the boxes are important enough that none of them should be hidden. The scroll bar is also so transparent it might as well be invisible, making it hard to know you need to scroll at all. The side tabs were a lot nicer, so please bring them back and divide the boxes up more again. This is a case where the design principle of not oversimplifying was violated, and it caused more complication, like doc 2 talks about.
It’s hard to distinguish between the boxes. The boxes are all the same size and shape, with no variation. Part of the reason the Kingdoms screen works decently well is because all of the boxes are different sizes and aligned differently, which creates enough visual variation to differentiate between the boxes and navigate easily. The boxes also are all very colorful, with no background to the text, so there isn’t a lot of contrast between the boxes and the text. This makes it hard to read the boxes. This violates the design principles of having contrast and of having multiple types of cues for different objects (shape, color, labels, etc.) instead of just one.
The customization is nice, but it wouldn’t be needed if the menu was designed so that it was easier to use. Also, like on the there’s not a way to turn it off and just have things be a default.
Bring back the side tabs and divide the boxes up between them. Make the boxes differ in size and shape to make it easier to distinguish between them at a glance. Change the colors or add background behind the text to improve contrast.
The new Follower’s ability is pretty disappointing. The community was excited for possibilities such as him being a glyph crafter or allowing us to reroll traits and elements. No one wanted or expected a follower who gives random buffs. Randomness can mess with builds a lot, so the buff could potentially be a downgrade for many players. And that’s not even taking into consideration the fact that he can apply “buffs” that have negative effects. I can see him being useful to starting players who don’t have solid builds yet, but not to veteran players with good builds. I recognize the effort that was made to make this character interesting, but someone didn’t think this idea through at all.
Hold off on releasing Resh temporarily (Better to not release something than to release it broken. Maybe plan to release him with chapter 2 instead). Ask the community for their thoughts and ideas on the matter (ways to improve him, reworks to the follower system, etc.) or give us a poll with options to choose from.
I’m honestly almost as disappointed about what didn’t get done to give us this step backwards in UI as I am by the UI that we have. There were many things that were promised to us, such as an inventory cap rework and a follower rework. The fact that we were promised these things and didn’t get them wasn’t even mentioned. If you need more time still, then it’s frustrating but understandable. However, it isn’t fair to us to promise us things and not deliver, then not even tell us anything about the why or what the updated plan is. Please give us an update on all of the things we were promised soon.
So, those are my thoughts on the new update. I know it was a lot of negative feedback, which I’m sorry for, but it’s impossible to improve on the negatives without taking an honest look at them first. Hopefully this post also provides a few ideas on how to improve things. I’ll be waiting to see what happens with the update.